**The following is a guest post by my sister, and bachelorette party planner extraordinaire, Pietra! Please enjoy!
In December 2016, my sister Francesca got engaged to an amazing guy; and she got started with her wedding plans right away. In fact, just a few weeks after her engagement, she already had her dress and a wedding date selected!
I was so honored when she asked me to be her Maid of Honor and we got right to work discussing her bachelorette party. During these initial discussions, Francesca indicated that she would like to have a summer bachelorette as summer is just easier. So, I got right to planning…in January!
Francesca mentioned that she was going to invite a large group and hoped that as many people as possible could come. I think when all was said and done, she invited around 28 girls and to our surprise 21 were able to attend! So, you can see my need for starting the planning early!
IMPORTANT BACK STORY
It’s important to point out that last year my maid of honor, Francesca of course, organized the most special bachelorette party filled with segway tours of D.C., my best friends, great food, a historical place to stay, a meeting with a Congressman, a tour of the White House and so much more. She made me feel so special. Here’s a photo from my bachelorette in DC!
Now, it was her turn to be spoiled as the bachelorette and I could only hope to make her feel as special as she made me feel on mine. We are those sisters who are unbelievably close and are best friends to one another – despite being total opposites!
Also, I started planning this bachelorette party on January 2 (no joke), and found out I was pregnant on January 8 (for real!) after I’d already got confirmation from 21 girls on a set date. I knew changing everything to accommodate me and my pregnancy was not going to fly.
Because I would not be attending, I promised myself that I would “plan the shit out of the bachelorette” so that my sister would never feel that she was not a priority to me. Apparently, being 36 weeks pregnant, flying several states away and partying all weekend was not what the doctor (or my husband) thought was a good idea.
It’s also important to note that she has the most amazing friends that helped make the planning so easy. And, they spoiled her down there and made me feel so included via social media!
Okay, let’s get started with this “HOW TO GUIDE!”
GET THE BRIDE’S VISION DOWN ON PAPER
Over the course of the planning, my sister mentioned many things that she wanted and did not want on her bachelorette party. Did I include all of the things she wanted? No. But, I did try to actively listen and send text messages to myself to remember what she said. This way, she’d be surprised that something she said she wanted 4 months ago (that she may have forgotten herself) came to fruition at her party! These ideas from the bride will essentially become your “theme”.
I also recommend sharing these “priorities” with the girls attending so they can get a sense of what Francesca likes. Naturally, you won’t include everything she’s ever mentioned to you, but giving the girls some of the bride’s priorities can help them understand: 1) does she want to have a raging party or 2) more of a relaxed atmosphere? I’d say this bride wanted a rager!
By the way, as I’m typing this, Baby Yozzo is having a raging party in my tummy right now! He or she is bouncing around all over. Must be a rager like his or her Aunt!
Here’s the list of priorities I sent to the girls from Francesca’s bachelorette party:
- All girls at brunch and dinners (daily)
- Free time is encouraged, so people feel like it’s their vacation too.
- No penis shit! LOL
- Don’t over plan day activities, keep it casual for walking around the city and enjoying live music and bars.
- LOVES live music, and places to take Instagram pics!
- Wants to play “dare game” she played at Jenn Brown’s bachelorette (Minda & Jenn to help coordinate)
- Try to keep expenses down – bring cash for dinners, it is much easier with a large group!
BE THE ONE POINT PERSON – CAN’T HAVE TOO MANY COOKS IN THE KITCHEN
You should be the point person for everything so all the details come together. If the girls can communicate directly with you about their travel needs or their questions, they can get one point of communication; rather than having to ask the bride or another bridesmaid. It seriously makes things so much easier when it comes to booking reservations with vendors and such. You should be the point person on all of this.
KEEP SOME THINGS A SURPRISE – IT’S WORTH IT
My sister continuously tells me that she’s not into surprises and that she wanted to be included in the trip planning. I indulged her a little bit, but come on, some things just need to be a surprise. I kept her in the loop on what the group would be doing, but it’s fun to keep some things a surprise. Also, my husband and my entire family and best friends always get annoyed with me because I constantly say, “don’t tell Francesca, but…”. I would recommend you use this sentence when planning a bachelorette party. If you don’t say “please don’t tell”; they may tell, so it’s not a surprise anymore! Also, involving some of the girls in the secrets makes them as excited as you!
CREATE A PRIVATE FACEBOOK PAGE
It’s hard to communicate with 21 girls via text or email or even phone. I wanted to have one central place that I could communicate and “post” information that would be easily accessible to everyone. I added everyone that was invited and if they could not attend, they were removed from the page so they did not continuously receive Facebook notifications about the event. The private Facebook page can be very simple – I included a photo of the bride and the title “Francesca’s Nashville Bachelorette Weekend”. I chose not to add the bride to the page in an effort to keep some things a surprise.
PLAN WELL IN ADVANCE
As some of you read this, you may be thinking – who the heck has time for all this planning? And I get it, it sounds like it took a lot of time and it did. But, I did not plan it all in one week or even one month. In fact, I started the Facebook page in January (8 months) in advance of the party. We are all busy, and let’s be honest, everyone thinks they have the busiest life. But at the end of the day, if you really want to do something, you’ll find time for it. So, I found time here and there over the course of the months leading up to the bachelorette party for planning. Also, as noted above, the fact that I could not attend in person gave me even more motivation to find time to plan the bachelorette party.
SELECT THE DATE WELL IN ADVANCE
With 21 girls, it’s important to select the date asap. Initially, I asked which MONTH is better June or August? Once that was settled, I posted the following question on the Facebook page with clear directions to comment below so I wasn’t trying to keep up with various texts, emails, etc. etc.
As you can see from the comments in the photo, all of the girls commented with option #1, #2 or #3. This made the decision on which weekend a lot easier. It also showed the girls that I truly did pick the date that worked best for everyone.
COLLECT MONEY AHEAD OF TIME AND REQUEST FOR A DUE DATE FOR PAYMENT
Next, I wanted to get the house booked in advance so we had a sense that this trip was definitely happening. I included the girls in this decision as well. I understand that you can’t make everyone happy, but I wanted to get a sense of their budgets, their preferences for being close to downtown or a more quaint location, etc. I also tried to keep them up-to-speed on the process. I would post that I requested a place and was just waiting to hear back. I would post once we got confirmation on the house, etc.
Once we selected the house, I booked it on my credit card. Per person, that cost of the house was not too bad, but to put that full amount on my credit card was something I wanted to be sure to pay off quickly. I was very honest with the girls about this and they understood. (Side note: I did split the costs to cover the bride’s room as well. This is just a suggestion, but something that’s typically done for the bride).
Here’s my post requesting payback and by what date. And would you believe that ALL 21 girls paid me back on time?! Collecting payment ahead of time helps prevent last minute cancellations as well. They’re already invested in the house, so they are very likely to go on the trip months later.
SEND OUT INVITATIONS
I debated whether or not to send out paper invitations, but I thought the girls would appreciate having a very general itinerary they could reference as they prepared to pack for the trip. Also, I felt that receiving a paper invitation would build up the excitement for the trip
To keep expenses down, I ordered them right from Etsy ($15) and had them printed locally. The important thing to remember is that you want to get them out early, but not too early that the girls lose them. I recommend one month or three weeks in advance of the trip. You might not have all of the events confirmed yet, but that’s okay. I wrote TBD on one line because I still needed to confirm those details. It’s okay – the girls will still appreciate the invitations! Here’s what I used:
INCLUDE EVERYONE IN THE PLANNING
Remember, these girls are the closest girls to the bride and they want to help and be involved – so include them! My sister has some of the best friends in the world and everyone of them participated in the planning. For example, one friend was in charge of the music at the house; another group was in charge of the decorations; another in charge of putting out the bags and setting up the food; another in charge of breakfast at the house one day, etc. There were so many “assigned” tasks that I can’t even list them all. My goal was two-fold: 1) that everyone would feel included and 2) that I could get some assistance as I would not be able to be there.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Naturally, you don’t want to ask for unreasonable things or really expensive tasks, but manageable tasks are a great way to include the girls and to free yourself up to do other planning items.
CONNECT WITH PEOPLE WHO KNOW THE AREA
One of my best friends (Meg) had recently visited Nashville and I consulted with her on which places she liked best. Also, a good family friend currently lives in Nashville and he had some great recommendations. It’s important to get people’s opinions instead of merely relying on the internet searches (if you can help it).
Now it should be noted that my friend Megan is called “TGM” for tour guide Meg. She is the best planner and I utilized her expertise – especially with the itinerary. So grateful for your help, Meg!
TRY TO ANTICIPATE HICCUPS AHEAD OF TIME (ESPECIALLY WITH 21 GIRLS)
I have some corporate event planning experience from a previous job of mine. One thing we tried to anticipate before a big corporate event is “what hiccups can be avoided”? With 21 girls at this event, I was trying to think of hiccups – like not being able to get everyone at one table for dinner. Or, sleeping arrangements so people did not feel like they were left out. Try and address any of these things in advance so when they girls get there, they know the deal. We had to have one group of girls use an air mattress and they were totally cool with it; likely because they knew ahead of time.
BOOK RESTAURANTS AT THE SAME TIME EACH NIGHT
If you’re going to plan the trip for a long weekend, and if it works out in your schedule, try planning all of your dinners at the same time each night. One of my favorite bachelorette parties was for one of my best friend Brittany. Her maid of honor had a general itinerary for us to have free time during the day, but certainly make sure to show up for dinner at the same time each night. I really liked that and tried to replicate it. So, basically, guests were able to do what they wanted during the day (with or without the bride), but everyone could easily remember to show up for an 8:30 p.m. dinner each night.
Now keep in mind that you want to run this by the bride. Some brides may want every guest with them for every event; especially if it’s a smaller party. But, for the larger parties, I highly suggest allowing the girls free time during the day so they can hang out with people they know and then everyone can celebrate the bride for the “mandatory” events.
CALL TO BOOK ACTIVITIES/DINNERS MONTHS IN ADVANCE
If you have a large group, you’re going to want to call restaurants well in advance. I think I called two or three months in advance to book the dinners. I found with a party of 10 or more, most places will make you complete a contract and give a credit card to hold the room. One place actually charged a room rental fee for a private room as they could not accommodate 21 girls in their main dining area.
PLAN “PRE TRIP” CALLS
I’m sure you’re probably reading this thinking, “this girl is nuts!” LOL. But with 21 girls, I had to create a group list so I knew who everyone was. I divided it by groups of friends to Francesca. Next, I assigned what was essentially a “captain” or contact to each group. This was the one person I would typically communicate with and then ask them to explain everything to the other girls in their group. One week before the trip, I hoped on a quick conference call with each “captain” to walk them through the full itinerary. Some of the things we discussed: how to get into the Airbnb house, the bride’s themes, when to wear the special bachelorette shirt, etc.
Here’s a list of the groups of friends for the trip. I posted this on the Facebook page with their contact phone numbers.
CREATE A HASHTAG AND ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO USE IT!
Ask the girls for their input on a fun (easy to remember) hashtag. Getting their input is great because they feel like they are contributing to planning the event; and having creative minds means you’ll get the best hashtag! Francesca’s hashtag was #smalltownnashlorette This was a combination of one girl suggesting the use of “small town” (Francesca’s fashion blog name) and another girl combining that phrase with Nashville and Bachelorette. It was a winner!
CREATE GIFS OR PHOTOS WITH FONT FOR EASY REFERENCE
It’s so easy to create a GIF or a photo with text over it. What I mean by that is, for things like directions, addresses, wifi passwords, etc.; rather than writing it all out, just create a fun photo with font over the image that the girls can easily understand and can save to their phones. Here are some examples of images with font I created for the bachelorette party.
MAKE SURE GIRLS KNOW the BRIDE’S FAV DRINK!
The bridesmaids will definitely want to buy the bride some drinks while on her bachelorette party. And, rather than have to ask her or to guess, it’s a good idea to just throw this out there on the Facebook page. That way, the bridesmaids all know and can plan accordingly.
PRACTICAL BRIDESMAIDS GIFTS
It’s tempting to want to buy every little “bachelorette” gifs for the bridesmaids, but when you have 21, you have to consider expenses. Also, I’ve been on my fair share of bachelorette parties and some of the gift items I’ve received I actually still use to this day! When I was considering what gifts I wanted to get the girls, I thought about all practical items that I’ve received in the past. Here’s a breakdown:
- Bags – I think the monogrammed bags without the word “bridesmaid” on them are amazing. This is just my personal preference, but then the bridesmaids can use the bag after the bachelorette party as it simply says their name on it. I purchased the girls bags from Sew Witte and they were amazing. Here’s a photo of some of them.
- T-shirts – Okay, with this one, it is what it is. Typically, bachelorette girls will never wear the shirts again (maybe to bed or for painting); but Francesca picked these shirts out and they don’t say “bachelorette”; they say, “champagne vibes” which is pretty generic, so they could wear again! It’s important to collect the sizes in advance on this though and to find out if the shirts run small or large. Here’s the shirts for the girls – and you can order here:
- Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste & doTERRA essential oils (all sample sizes)
- Bracelets with the address to the house (in case they get lost while out!). This was actually an idea from my best friend Claire. It was something she had seen at another bachelorette party and recommended for this one. I’m so glad she told me about it because I think the girls got a kick of out it and hey, who knows, maybe they really did use it to tell the uber drivers how to drop them off! Thanks, Claire! I ordered these from Wristband Express.
I think it’s cute to get the bride a little something special from the maid of honor. My sister said she did not want to wear anything that said “bride” on it, but I knew she would regret this when she got down to Nashville, because if you don’t wear it – no one knows it’s your party! I had attended an amazing bachelorette party for my friend Meg (can you tell I’ve been on a lot of bachelorette parties!?) and she sister, Chelsea, purchased the most adorable sash with the words “Future Mrs. XXXX”. I reached out to Chelsea for the company and ordered the same one with Francesca’s fiancé’s last name. It was so cute!
GIVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS ABOUT COSTS
Let’s be honest, asking girls to fly to Nashville and stay/party for 4 days is a lot. It’s important to be honest about the expected costs in advance. Francesca really wanted to keep the rest of the expenses down (after flight and house), so we didn’t plan any major tours or extra events. Also, it was a little challenging to come up with events for 21 girls.
What I did was to give them general prices for each of the restaurants that had a “mandatory” reservation. Also, they knew in January (and paid by February as noted above!) about the cost of the house. After the house cost and their travel expenses), it was up to them how much they wanted to spend on other meals, extra activities, shopping, etc. Here’s part of the itinerary to show how much the food was for a “mandatory” meals with the bride.
KEEP TRACK OF YOUR EXPENSES
I am an expense tracker fanatic. I think it’s important to know how much you (the planner) actually spend for multiple reasons. Number one, you will want to keep track for your own budget and number two, if/when people ask you which vendor you used for what, it’s so handy to go back to your expense list and simply check. For example, I’ve had a few people ask me about the ID bracelets, if I did not write the cost and the name of the company on my excel sheet, I would never remember the name of the company. It’s just handy for you to have. Obviously, this expense sheet should not be shared with anyone but yourself.
SAY THANK YOU!
It seems like such a simple thing, but it’s so important; SAY THANK YOU! Be sure to thank all of the girls for their communication, their assistance in planning and all of their help in ensuring the bride had fun. It’s such a simple thing, but it truly is necessary. These girls just dropped a lot of money and took time off work and away from their families to celebrate the bride – be sure to thank them!
I took a lot of pride in planning this party. I love my sister very much and I was so happy that she had an amazing time because she’s an amazing person. I love you, Francesca! Love your sis, Pietra! xoxo